Thursday, February 23, 2012

Silent cinema (no voice! no text!) "gave an actor..super-expressive power..beyond in language.”

Denby asserts that early in the 20th century, through silent cinema "The ineffable had been re-introduced into art."  See below for excerpts and link to full essay/review prompted by recent prominence of silent black-and-white film "The Artist" - nominated for 10 Oscars in 2012.
We'll consider the options and relative impact of voice, image, and text - both live and recorded - in “Whose Voices Don’t Matter?” online Friday, Feb 24 at 2PM ET.  Register free   

"Barthes was not given to extravagance, yet he was not exaggerating Garbo’s effect on the audience. "In 1923, ... Béla Balázs described the cinema as marking nothing less than the rebirth of the human in art. In literature, the body was confined to ordered pages of type. Now, in movies, the word became flesh. And Balázs explicitly praised silence as necessary for the highest achievement:
"'The gestures of visual man [i.e., the film actor] are not intended to convey concepts which can be expressed in words, but such inner experiences, such non-rational emotions which would still remain unexpressed when everything that can be told has been told.'
"A daunting remark. Is it true? There’s no doubt that film, by using methods special to itself—editing techniques such as cutting from one face in closeup to another and prolonging climactic moments—gave an actor a super-expressive power. It could turn him into a larger-than-life metaphor, a quintessence of a mental or spiritual state that, as Balázs says, lies beyond words, just as music lies beyond words. The stories of silent drama may often have been elemental, yet, within the broad outlines, the artists among the actors could bring out shadings that had no immediate analogue in language. The ineffable had been re-introduced into art."

- Above excerpts from an essay review "THE CRITICS; A CRITIC AT LARGE;  THE ARTISTS;  Notes on a lost style of acting.
" by David Denby, Feb 27, 2012, The New Yorker, p. 76 [NewYorker account login required to view the article that is reached by the preceding URL.]

IMAGE selected by Steve Gilbert 20120223
Photo of pastel drawing "Odilon Redon, Le Silence.jpg ... 1900...The museum of Modern Art, New York; Photographer
The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH."
Odilon Redon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
"Odilon Redon (1840–1916)  The work of art depicted in this image and the reproduction thereof are in the public domain worldwide. The reproduction is part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project. The compilation copyright is held by Zenodot Verlagsgesellschaft mbH and licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License."

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